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Serengeti Dreamin'


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Those lion cubs are sharply focused for sure. Your daughter's pics look good!


That charming series with the elephant has this song playing in my head, that starts:


Here we go 'round the mulberry bush,

The mulberry bush, the mulberry bush.

Here we go 'round the mulberry bush,

So early in the morning.


This is the way we wash our clothes,

wash our clothes, wash our clothes...


Lovely report!

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You DO have the words and pics to describe your experience. The rhinos were a very lucky treat in the Serengeti! Everything showed up for you!

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Lynn, you're very perceptive :) That's exactly the song I was thinking about when posting the ele shots. Except we used to say "This is the way I brush my hair ...on a cold and frosty morning."


Thanks for the reading PT123, RichardAfrica, Kavey, Twaffle, Lynn and pault. I was beginning to get lazy about this, so thank you very much for the encouragement.



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July 14, 2011


We pass through central Serengeti en route to Grumeti. There are still some good-sized zebra herds in central, although the migration has definitely moved on. We follow along with some of the herds until we came to the Grumeti turnoff. From there, we head due west along the western corridor and the zebra herds head... due north.






Peter tells me not to worry. According to him, zebras are very smart animals. He believes that the zebras have learnt over the years that the westward trek and the Grumeti crossings can be very hazardous, so now they prefer to take another route. I'm not sure what to make of this explanation.


Even though I had promised myself I wouldn't, I have been reading blogs and reports such as "Where is the migration right now?" At last check (while in India), the mega herds were in Grumeti "where there were plenty of sweet grasses to keep them busy for a couple of weeks..." But as we get closer and closer to Grumeti, it quickly becomes apparent that the wildies are of another, altogether different opinion.


We drive past the vast Musabi plains. The grasses are tall enough to dwarf most animals and the plains look untouched. Testament to the fact that even if the wildies passed through here, they didn't linger. According to conventional wisdom, the herds should be in Grumeti or around Grumeti at this time of the year. All the blogs said that they were here or around here. But we see neither hide nor hair of them.






The combination of high grasses and absent herds, makes for quieter game viewing. My brother (the first-timer with all of a first-timer's enthusiasm for the larger mammals) quickly starts calling it "No-Cat- Grumeti." Indeed, the last "cat" we'll see for the next few days is this beautiful male with a two-tone mane.




No-Cat-Grumeti is a catchy name and and that's what we're all calling it soon.




When we come into camp, which is at a beautiful location on the Grumeti river, it all becomes clear. The river is already dry with just a few small pools of water remaining. The hippos are wallowing where they can, but this will not be an easy year for them, nor for the crocs for that matter. We conclude that the wildie herds came, they saw, and they moved on.




But where to? If they've already moved north-west towards the Mara, then we're okay because we're headed to Kogatende next. But they may also have moved on to the Grumeti Singita Reserves and the Ikorongo Controlled Area. Should they choose to linger there, we'll miss the mega-herds altogether because vehicles from the park cannot drive into these private concessions.


Talking of the Grumeti Reserves and the Ikorongo Controlled Area, the local name for this seems to be the Bill Gates concession. I'm not sure if people know of Paul Tudor's ownership of the GR, and what, if any holding Bill Gates has there, but the local understanding is that Bill Gates has leased the entire area and that he spends some time here each year. Perhaps he has bought rights to the Ikorongo Controlled Area? At any rate, it seems that the new lease-holders do not allow hunting in Ikorongo, so BG or no BG, it's been a positive development. We hear that the private concessions are considering digging waterholes to lure the animals into the concessions when water is low in the Grumeti river. If this is true, then this may explain why so few animals are visible inside the park here. What will be the impact of these artificial waterholes on the migration as a whole?


As we drive along the river, we see new tracks being laid, as well as a new boundary beacon. By this time next year, some of the tracks we're driving along will be inside the private concession.


There are colobus monkeys high on the treetops along the river. Angolan colobus monkeys, cousins to the black and white colobuses found in Arusha National Park and elsewhere. Their tails are less luxuriant.


Is that an impala?

Nopes, just an Impala Stump.




I wish we had kept a better record of these sightings, but we saw more Lion Mounds, Giraffe Logs, Rhino Rocks, Hyena Branches and Elephant Bushes than we could count. I know this sounds familiar to all of you. It's uncanny how convincing these logs and stumps can be, especially as the light begins to fade.


Not sure if this one is an actual hyena, or a hyena log!




Tse-tses everywhere, and particularly active during the hotter parts of the day. It is unseasonably warm for this time of the year and they are out in full force.


We see a wildebeest hobbling around with a snare on its foot. The other car also happens to see two snared and dead wildebeest. It seems that poaching for the pot is quite common here in the west, especially during the migration season. The rangers overlook it. However, they are armed with AK47s and if they see an armed poacher, then the policy is to shoot first and ask questions later.


Peter has decided to abandon the "formal" dinner table today. Too many nights of western food and he's pining for a good ugali in the staff tent. We're all very happy that he feels comfortable enough with us to do that.


As we sit down to eat, we hear a rumbling sound, and in the blink of an eye, a long line of wildebeest crashes by in a thunder of hooves not 50 feet from the mess tent! Amazing sight. We are all so surprised that I don't think anyone took a picture. I will ask G if he had the presence of mind to take a video of this. If so, I'll post it here.




Soup of the day, yesterday: Celery soup.

Soup of the day, today: Sweet corn soup.

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Lovely pictures here! From what I know (I've been several tmes to help train guides and do reseach), the 30 year lease on Grumeti and Ikorongo Game Reserves are 100% owned by Paul Tudor Jones, with an additional 99 year lease on Sasakwa hill (outside the GR). He comes out once a year for 2ish weeks (he was there whilst you were on the other side!). Never heard of Bill Gates there, but he'd be able to afford the stay at least! As you probably saw, the wildebeest did some odd things this year - arriving a little early in late May then leaving Grumeti fairly promptly in late June/early July as usual, but then a major group coming back again (even as far as Maswa) when there was very unseasonal rain in late July. Snares are unfortunately particularly common all over the NP as the wildebeest pass through everywhere except the Grumeti Reserves where they are very serious about anti-poaching. Sure enough, animals know they're safe in Grumeti Reserves and for the first few years there many animals moved out of the NP and into the GR. Now the populations of resident animals on the GR are growing fast and starting to overflow back into the park - particularly topi and other antelope on the Nyasirori plains. These days there are certainly more resident animals in the western corridor thanks to overflow from the GR - if they get poaching undercontrol there (there's no official tolerance, but just lazyness and corruption) there would soon be an awful lot more resident wildlife in most of Serengeti (the migration does not seem limited by poaching). The animals are also staying there longer these days, thanks to sensible fire management (different to that in the park). RE water holes, the GR rebuilt an old, decaying dam when they took the concession (below Sasakwa), but otherwise have no extra waterholes and I would be astonished if they plan more, having been instrumental in removing several other old dams (such as Sabora dam) in recognition of the damage that can be caused by inappropriate water provision. Anyway, hope that helps clarify some misinformation! (In case it's not clear, Grumeti reserves are fantastic for wildlife, both during the migration and at other times and I think the managers there are doing good things!)

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Oh, And I forgot to say, the colobus here is not Angolan, despite what many books and guides will tell you - they're the lowland form of the Guereza colobus - same species as the highland one, but (as you say) less fluffy white. Angolan is ony found in southern Tanzania and lacks the white frill down the back and across the rump, having only large white shoulder frills. Check here for full deails of the confusing black and white colobus group!

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More wonderful writing and photos Sangeeta, thanks.


TZ, great information and it sounds like Grumeti is getting it right. Glad to hear about the careful consideration of water provision. When we talk about wildlife intervention it seems as if we forget these things which can seriously upset the balance of an ecosystem.


Laziness, just think what a difference to the poaching problem a few really motivated rangers would make. (not saying that there aren't any, I hasten to add :unsure: )

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Angolan is ony found in southern Tanzania

Sorry TZ Birder but this is not quite correct Angolan colobus occur from the Southern Highlands up through the Eastern Arc Mts and along the coast, I’ve seen them in the Udzungwas the Ulugurus, the West Usambaras, beside the Rufiji River near the Selous and on the Tz coast and also at Diani Beach and Shimba Hills in Kenya.


Thanks for a great report Sangeeta this is very interesting to me, in a little over a week I’ll be in the Serengeti myself :D, I’ve never been at this time of year before my previous visits were in February. Hopefully we’ll get to be as lucky with our sightings as you were.

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I think that Bill Gates, like Kleenex and Xerox, may be becoming the generic term for billionaires :lol:


Now the populations of resident animals on the GR are growing fast and starting to overflow back into the park - particularly topi and other antelope on the Nyasirori plains.


You're exactly right on that one, TZBirder, I was going to say exactly the same thing in my next installment.


The animals are also staying there longer these days, thanks to sensible fire management (different to that in the park).


I can believe that! More on fire management inside the NP later, but I think you make a good point here as well.


Very, very glad to hear that the waterholes may just be a rumor. In point of fact, the animals probably know where they'll be safer and stay away from the poacher areas.


I will post a picture of the colobus we saw - perhaps it will be clarify which one this was.


Have a great trip, Inyathi. Watch out for the tsetses in the west, Koga and Bologonja, though. They were out there in droves. But tsetses or no tsetses, I'd rather be there than here :)

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The vegetable matter animal shots are a great idea. Really looks like the stated animal, even in the photo. Never thought to photograph those.


That male lion with the 2-tone mane must have a personal hair dresser. Very striking.


I believe I saw troops of Angolan colobus in Nyungwe, Rwanda.


Soups of the day look good, wish I has those to look forward to.

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Angolan is ony found in southern Tanzania

Sorry TZ Birder but this is not quite correct Angolan colobus occur from the Southern Highlands up through the Eastern Arc Mts and along the coast, I’ve seen them in the Udzungwas the Ulugurus, the West Usambaras, beside the Rufiji River near the Selous and on the Tz coast and also at Diani Beach and Shimba Hills in Kenya.


Thanks for a great report Sangeeta this is very interesting to me, in a little over a week I’ll be in the Serengeti myself :D, I’ve never been at this time of year before my previous visits were in February. Hopefully we’ll get to be as lucky with our sightings as you were.


Quite right! I forget those coastal populations for lots of things (it's an 8 hour drive and I've got small children...), but I should have remembered the Usambara population. These (into Kenya) are all Colobus angolensis palliatus.


And yes, the species is present in Rwanda too (Colobus angolensis ruwenzorii), with possible records of this from the far west of TZ, though there are also populations in Western Tanzania of at least one other not formally named (we call it "Nkungwe's Angolan Colobus") - you can see it easily at Mahale.


Just to be clear, the Guereza on Mt's Meru and Kilimanjaro is Colobus guereza caudatus, but along the Grumeti it's Colobus guereza matschiei and there really aren't Angolan here, despite everything you hear - same rance as on Mt Elgon, btw.

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July 15, 2011


The Catfish, the Marabou and the Hyena.


Now that we're mostly reconciled to No-Cat-Grumeti and No-Megaherd-Grumeti, we hope to spend a low key day just enjoying the place for what it is. In all honesty, it feels kind of nice to have a non-frenetic day at the mid-point of our safari.


The dawn today is a quietly beautiful African dawn. Hoping to beat the tsetse action, we set off early for the Nyasirori plains. There is a balloon floating on the far horizon and the morning air is moist and chill. The plains are not teeming with animals, but we do see some topis and warthogs on the horizon and a hyena shuffling along with its nose pointed high in the air.

















As the day broadens, we see that Nyasirori consists of some tall grass and some short grass plains. The wildies were here for a bit. There are lots of hyenas in Grumeti. We found three fresh den sites near our campsite last evening. Here, the plains are dotted with many more. Very relaxed hyenas. We even see one that has been wallowing recently and looks silly walking around half covered in mud.






We then drive to the river where we see marabou stork fishing in diminishing pools of muddy water. The catfish don't stand a chance. But it's nice to see the grubby storks do something other than scavenge.






Then we see this:




It's a heaving, writhing mass of conjoined catfish! The stork are ignoring it. We hypothesize that the fish do this instinctively to scare predators away. Does anyone know anything about this phenomenon?


Tomorrow will be a long drive to Kogatende. If we could cut through the Grumeti Reserves and ICA, we could be there in a couple of hours. But as things stand, we must drive back to central Serengeti, then north to a little town outside the park, Mugumu, where we need to fill up on diesel. From there, we'll drive outside the park all the way to Fort Ikoma where we'll re-enter the park at Kogatende.


I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the wildies. I'd like to see at least 1 mega-herd if I can.


Soup of the day: Peanut and leek soup. Unanimously voted best soup of the trip :)


PS: Here's the colobus in question. Not a very good picture, I'm afraid.



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I wish we had kept a better record of these sightings, but we saw more Lion Mounds, Giraffe Logs, Rhino Rocks, Hyena Branches and Elephant Bushes than we could count. I know this sounds familiar to all of you. It's uncanny how convincing these logs and stumps can be, especially as the light begins to fade.


It really IS uncanny isn't it... in one park I recall huge grey rocks that even had a sort of spinal ridge along the top edges ... "Rhino!", no wait, another ******* rock!



Edited by Kavey
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Unless they’re habituated colobus monkeys aren’t always very easy to photograph. As TZBirder says there aren’t any Angolan colobus in the Serengeti area. So it can only be a lowland guereza as is clear in your photo the lowland guereza has a black tail with quite a noticeable white brush on the end whereas the Angolan colobus while it does generally have a white tip to the tail the white doesn’t form a noticeable brush. Also guerezas have a white mantle whereas Angolans just have white epaulettes the face is also a different shape and the white cheek fur on a guereza is short, on an Angolan the fur is much longer and sticks out forming distinctive curved sideburns. Lowland guerezas are easily seen in parts of Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia the highland guereza is easily seen in Arusha NP another great place to see them is Ngare Sero Lodge at the base of Mt Meru, the highland race has a much longer white mantle and a huge white brush for a tail such that the black part is often barely visible.


I’m pretty keen on monkeys if I can find time I might start a thread on monkeys and post some photos as I don’t think there’s one already for monkey photos or maybe someone else could start one.


You’re probably right about the catfish, I’ve seen similar congregations of catfish but in even less water just liquid mud really (see the Katavi thread) I guess when almost all the water’s gone it must be a bit of struggle to get enough oxygen.

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July 16, 17 and 18, 2011


Kogatende/Wogatende/ Kogakuria/Wogakuria: 4 Names for 1 Very Beautiful Place


The hills are on fire when we get here. Controlled burning, cold burning, call it what you will, but my heart sinks to my toes as we drive to the campsite. Kogatende was supposed to have been the high point of this safari, but surely these fires will have driven all the animals away? We're told that the practice of burning is actually what keeps a large portion of the migration in the Serengeti at this time of the year, but charred hillsides are no consolation to someone who has travelled thousands of miles to get here.


To make matters worse, TANAPA has bumped us from our original campsite (facing the river and away from the fires), to another little-used site, covered with very tall grass, and framed by ridges that appear to be burning alarmingly close behind us. We have driven through pretty acrid smoke to get here and I am amazed that the crew has even been able to set up camp here. "Welcome to the African bush" says Hamadi with a twinkle in his eye as we hop out onto a veritable mattress of grass.






But next morning, the air is crisp and clear again, and I actually see a topi or two grazing on some blackened bushes.


Were you able to sleep with all the noise last night, asks Peter. What noise? Let's go and see. And as we drive up and down the hills to the river, there it is, spread out before my eyes, in all its glory, the great wildebeest migration of the Serengeti. It is an "Ode to Joy" moment for me.






They come down to the river as if by magic. In dogged lines that are kilometers long. From the left. From the right. From the back. From every which direction. Drawn to the river as if by magic. We start off with a good sized herd, that's all. But before we know it, we have thousands upons thousands of animals standing in front of us, tens of feet deep, seriously contemplating crossing the river.










The hills and the valleys of Wogakuria are alive with the sound of, dare I say it, bleating. My daughter calls it a cross between a bleat, groan and grunt. We go off-roading today to find a remote spot from where we can watch and hear this proliferation of life. There is something strangely contagious about the sounds that the wildies make. You really can't help responding. So here we are, standing on the seats of our car, doing a Moses drive through an absolutely humongous herd of wildies, loudly saying "Anhh" to them as they say "Anhh" to us.








Apparently, thirty-five thousand vultures follow the migration. The wildies have only just arrived in the area in these numbers, so the grasses are still tall and the only easy way to see the predators is to follow the vultures. But Peter says that this looks like a natural death.







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This one is definitely a lion kill. But all we have to have to show for it in the tall grass are the bones.




These ones are leopard kills. The claw marks are tantalizingly fresh, but no sign of the leopard.




We see a croc take a baby wildie during a crossing. It's hard to see that and I'm okay with just seeing the carcasses, though it would have been nice to see the leopard on the tree with his month's stash of food.


We're getting ready to head off to Bologonja when we see a cloud of dust in the distance. Crazy rush to the river and the wildies give us yet another crossing. They're really quite a sight at the moment they mentally commit to the actual crossing. Vlam, bam, into the river!








The Lamai Wedge was quiet in mid-July, but I suspect this quiet is very short-lived. Here's a picture of the famous Mara bridge & a topi with Kenya on the horizon. Now I can see why people complain about this bridge getting washed out all the time. The river is treacherous here, and people have died in foolhardy attempts to cross the river here.




From Fort Ikoma, we drove along a portion of the future Serengeti highway. We saw where this would join the other part of the road near Lobo. These are the exact routes that the mega-herds used for the migration this year. According to our guides, the road is pretty much a done deal. Some World Bank reps attended a meeting about the road recently only to hear that the overwhelming majority of the locals want it to be built. The local communities in the areas adjacent to the Serengeti do not see the benefits of wildlife tourism. The road from Mugumu to Ikoma is one of the worst I've ever driven on, which is saying something because I didn't think that anything could be worse than some of the roads I've been on in India 20-30 years ago. The locals have been promised loans for their small businesses etc. in return for their support for the project. The local communities are already planning lodges and hotels in the vicinity to cater to the projected increase in tourism. That is not a bad thing in itself, but the million dollar question, of course, is what effect will this traffic have on the migration.


Peter tells me that already this area is nothing like it was even five years ago. Then it was rare to see another car at all, and you had to travel around this part of the park with a ranger. Now there are camps everywhere. I saw more camps here than in Moru. Some of these camps are like mini-villages and have assigned car-parks. We only had 2-5 cars at each of the 2 crossings we saw, so not many at all, but I can see this changing within a very short period of time. In a way, it's a good thing. The more tourists, the better the outlook for the wildlife. But I hope Woga/Koga doesn't become the victim of its own success. At the end of the safari, our guides tell us that if we add up all the wildies and zebras we've seen in all parts of the park, we've probably been lucky enough to see 80% of the migration. That's a staggering number. And I do so hope and pray that we can keep this area free of undue human interference for:


This guy,




And these guys,




And this little guy...





Soups of the day: Warm cucumber soup; Onion soup; Cauliflower soup.

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Oh oh oh loving this, Sangeeta!



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Thank you for reading, Kavey. Have been meaning to add my last installment to this TR for days now but just haven't been able to find the time.


I wanted to add a quick note to my impressions about the remoteness of the Northern Serengeti. I did say that there are any number of seasonal camps in the area now, plus more permanent camps as well, with some areas looking like mini-villages, but it is absolutely nothing like the Mara during the migration. Just read a very nice Mara TR on F, which describes 80 vehicles 4 deep at crossing points, some of them blocking the crossing paths. We saw 2 crossings in Kogatende - one with 2 vehicles and 1 with 5 others. We also saw about 100K wildies at the Sand River crossing en route to Bologonja - there were no other vehicles there at all. All our sightings, even the cheetah sightings, were solo after the first few minutes. But even at their peak, we shared our sightings with no more than 4-5 vehicles anywhere in the Serengeti, except for the Seronera area.


Moru was surprisingly uncrowded. Grumeti we pretty much had to ourselves. Kogatende had more camps than people, so perhaps the number of visitors will go up in August/September/October. Bologonja felt like the most remote area to us and was entirely uncrowded.


The northern Serengeti sightings will, I am sure, be as prolific as the Mara once the grasses are shorter.


PS - The Nomad site has a photograph in their Nomad Lamai section featuring a leopard in a tree with 2 wildie carcasses. I'm pretty much sure it's the same tree I showed here, except with the leopard actually in it :)

Edited by Sangeeta
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Great report and pics Sangeeta congratulations to your daughter. Funny how you and I seem to both look forward to the "soup of the day". They just seem to have the knack of making really good soup.

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Your wilde photos are great. Just like being in the migration. Ode to Joy, I can hear it in the background of all the gnu-ing now.


Unsettling news about the road. Hoping the wildes can adapt and that the value of the ecosystem will be realized by the local people who can benefit from its preservation. Makes you wonder the future of "this little guy" and the rest.


The smoke from the fires looked quite thick. Surprising it dissipated so quickly to give you clear views the next day. While TANPA did not mess with your flights, it messed with your campsite.


The marabou and catfish shots capture a unique aspect of the Serengeti.

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I doubled up on my "soup" post and of course was unable to cancel it so ignore this one! :rolleyes:

Edited by samburumags
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A little too excited over the soup. It can happen to any of us. Looking forward to more Sangeeta.

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Great report and pics Sangeeta congratulations to your daughter. Funny how you and I seem to both look forward to the "soup of the day". They just seem to have the knack of making really good soup.


Thanks, SMags - my daughter gets this really big grin on her face every time anyone on here says anything nice about her photos. She was very reluctant to have me post them on a "pro" site like this because she's seen the quality of most of the pics on ST. But I hope she'll be inspired by the photos she sees here, and be encouraged by all the positive comments she has received.


Glad to find a soup buddy too :)


Lynn, waiting for you to come back from your trip and continue the Serengeti adventures here.


Here is my last installment. Some of the pictures here were shot by our friend GK.

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July 19, 20 and 21, 2011


Bologonja is the wild card of our trip. This is the area I've heard and read least about. Very few permanent or seasonal camps here, but camping here will give us easy access not only to Bolo but also to Lobo and the surrounding Upper Grumeti woodlands On our last safari to Tanzania, we had gone with Flycatcher who run a seasonal camp in Bologonja. Although we were going directly to Mahale on that trip, we had landed at the Lobo airstrip to pick up some other Flycatcher clients who were coming with us to Mahale, and I remember them speaking excitedly about their cheetah sightings in Bolo. This is also where I had hoped to see a rhino in the wild while planning the trip, but after the Moru rhino sighting, the pressure is off. Truth be told, I have come here for the wildies. And after the magnificent wildlife spectacle of the wildie herds in Kogakuria, Bologonja can be another No-Cat-Grumeti and I'll only be mildly disappointed. But the Serengeti decides to see us off in style...


This sighting is near the Sand River crossing point where nearly 100 thousand wildies are queued up to cross into the Mara. It breaks our 6-day Lion Drought.




Compared to the other parts of the park, Bologonja is still green and there are many natural above-ground and underground springs scattered throughout the hills.




Because of its elevation, we hope for cooler weather, but it's not to be. Quite the reverse. It's unseasonably warm here and the tsetses are out in Katavi-like droves. So we end up avoiding the woodlands as much as we can. We do, however, see the whistling thorn trees and the amazing symbiotic relationship between the ants that protect the trees from browsers and the sap the trees produce for the ants. Many of the hillsides here have been shorn bare of all vegetation by the migrating herds, but the whistling thorn trees look intact. For some reason, there are white patches of Morning Glory flowers everywhere. Evidently the wildies don't care for those either.


Our campsite is located not far from the ranger post, and an armed ranger spends all 3 nights with us here because the area is considered quite remote.


As evidenced by these honeymooning couples not far from our tents. But they aren't alone.






Love is in the air.











We see these three of the four separate pairs of mating lions so many times during our stay that we finally feel compelled to christen them in order to refer to them as individuals. The rugged old guy nearest our camp is Ribbon Ears, the handsome golden male is Mustafa and Black Mane is one of the pride males living in the gully.


The Bologonja ostriches want in on the action too.




And where love is in the air,

There are babies everywhere...












This is the biggest pride we see in the Serengeti - 3 pride males, females, adolescents, cubs of all ages - we count more than 30 individuals. They seem to be living in a gully right at the edge of the park, very close to the road that turns off towards Klein's concession and the road that veers off towards Lobo.





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